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In Bihar battle, who cares about environment?

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Patna: For an election that can make or break the main contenders for power in Bihar, no one seems bothered about environmental issues.

The ever increasing pollution in the Ganges, people hit hard by arsenic, fluoride and iron content in drinking water, rising air pollution and falling rainfall — issues that affect millions — have been given a go-by as Bihar readies for the third round of the five-phase assembly election.

Political parties and top leaders are harping on economic development, job quotas, beef, shooting prices of food items as well as caste equations to woo voters.

Neither the BJP-led NDA of Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor the Grand Alliance of the JD-U, RJD and Congress led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appear to take up green issues.

With star campaigners from Modi to BJP president Amit Shah and Nitish Kumar to RJD chief Lalu Prasad trying hard to target youths by promising development including jobs to education, green issues have been missing from the campaign.

Yet, pollution is a major issue for millions all over Bihar.

In places like Patna, Buxar and Bhagalpur districts, pollution in the Ganges is worrying everyone.

According to Gangetic dolphin expert R.K. Sinha, over the years disposal of untreated waste has been the major cause for growing pollution in the river considered holy by Hindus.

Six major drains carry untreated water directly into the river in Patna.

“Any development cannot be sustainable by ignoring environmental concerns. If our water and air are polluted, what kind of development are we talking about? Development minus environment is like fish without water,” said Ranjeev, a green activist.

He warned that the neglect of green issues will cost the people of Bihar dear, particularly the poor, in view of climate changes.

“A large part of Bihar is in the Himalayan terai area, which is most vulnerable to climate change. The poor will face livelihood problems but surprisingly it is not an issue in the election campaign,” he said.

Another environment activist, Mahender Yadav, said some green issues were mentioned in some manifestos but were not raised at public rallies.

Rampati Kumar, CEO of the Centre for Environment and Energy Development(CEED), said environmental issues were the real challenge.

Rampati Kumar told IANS that the political class had forgotten green issues.

“It is a sad part of our elections. If only politicians raise green issues and talk about them, it will certainly create awareness and help the environment to take centre stage,” he said.

Ranjeev said climate change was going to hit agriculture.

“Today, the central government is stressing the need to import pulses to get over the pulse crisis. But when climate change will hit the farming communiy, how many food items can we import?”

Patna, Bihar’s biggest city, has over two million people and noise levels are very high. But few legislators appear to be bothered.

“The vehicular pollution is the biggest health hazard for all. But there is no cry for CNG in Patna,” said Ranjeev.

This year Bihar received nearly 29 percent deficit rainfall, leading to a drought like situation in over two dozen districts.

Thanks to pollution-induced weather changes, Bihar has already faced one drought after another.

“It is a bad sign. Bihar is still an agrarian state where most people depend on it for livelihood.”
(Imran Khan, IANS)

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What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Flag Of BJP, homosexuality
Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)